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Expanded Chinese travel program starts off slow

2012/05/31 13:35:41

Taipei, May 31 (CNA) An expanded travel program targeting individual Chinese tourists did not take off as strongly as expected in its first month, travel industry insiders said Thursday.

According to government statistics, one month after the expanded travel program started April 28, which allows Chinese nationals from six more cities in addition to Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen to travel to Taiwan without having to be part of a tour group, only some 8,000 people have used it.

The number between March 28 and April 27, before the program expansion was launched, was around 12,000.

"We knew that the program would not generate very impressive results in the first couple of months, but we were still a bit surprised by the weakness of its performance," said Roget Hsu, secretary-general of Taiwan's Travel Agent Association.

Since Chinese travel agencies could still be unfamiliar with the related paperwork for such trips, Hsu said, a significant surge in tourist volume is not likely until the summer vacation period.

Previously restricted to Chinese residents of Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen, the program was expanded to allow people from Tianjin, Chongqing, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Chengdu to make independent trips across the Taiwan Strait.

According to the National Immigration Agency, as of Thursday, only around 1,400 travel applications from the six new cities had been received, accounting for some 10 percent of the total submissions.

However, agency deputy director-general Ho Jung-tsun said he was not worried about the program's poor start, since May is traditionally part of the slow season for the travel industry.

"We are just warming up," he said. "The number of visitor arrivals could easily break 700 per day by September," he added.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)